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Pivotal week for New Richmond Millers baseball team

Josh Leavens is shown delivering a pitch during his complete game effort against Exeland on Sunday.

This could be the most important week of the season for the New Richmond Millers.

The Millers are in pursuit of a spot in the Wisconsin Amateur Baseball state playoffs. They have three home games this week that will largely determine whether the Millers reach the playoffs.

All three of those games are St. Croix Valley League games. The Millers are currently 6-3 in the SCVL and they need to finish above the .500 level to be eligible for a berth in the state playoffs.

This week's games at Citizens Field begin with a 7:30 p.m. clash on Friday with Hager City. The Millers play at home at 1 p.m. Sunday against Ellsworth. The third game of the week will be played next Wednesday, when the Millers host Menomonie at 7:30 p.m.

The Millers improved their SCVL record to 6-3 with a 14-2 win over Plum City last Friday, the first of four home games over the weekend for the Millers.

Friday's 14-2 win was as one-sided as the score would indicate. The Millers scored four times in the first inning, added another run in the second and put the outcome to rest with eight runs in the third inning.

Matt Peterson was unstoppable against Plum City, knocking in six runs. He delivered a two-run double in the first inning and a three-run double in the third inning. He singled home the team's final run in the sixth inning.

Plum City's hitters were no match for New Richmond ace Hayden Zimmerman. Zimmerman worked the first five innings, allowing two hits while striking out six. Plum City scored its two runs in the sixth inning against reliever Ryan Stephens, but the Millers still managed to earn their first 10-run rule win of the season.

On Saturday the Millers got an unexpected pitching gem in a 6-1 win over the Haugen Hornets. Baldwin-Woodville senior Coleman Roskam was a recent addition to the roster. Roskam pitched all nine innings, allowing eight hits while striking out eight Hornets. Haugen's only run was scored in the ninth inning.

"He had very good control. He hit his locations," said Stephens, the Millers manager.

A three-run third inning gave Roskam all the support he'd need. Jordan Maxon and Mitch Paquin singled and they both scored on another double from Peterson. Peterson came home on a single from Josh Leavens.

Leavens and Grant Nelson singled and scored in the sixth inning. Dan Leavens led off the seventh inning by reaching on an error. He would score on his brother's third hit of the game.

The Millers used the three non-league games over the weekend to give their younger players some game experience at this level. So, while the Millers suffered their first home-field losses of the season in a double-header against Exeland, it was still a productive day. Exeland won the games 2-1 and 5-4.

Josh Leavens pitched for the Millers in the first game, against UW-Stevens Point senior pitcher Jacob Herbst. Herbst had a 2.29 ERA in 35 innings for the Pointers this spring. This was a splendid pitching battle. Herbst was throwing heat and many of the Miller hitters failed to catch up to his heater. The Millers struck out 12 times in seven innings.

Leavens was just as effective. While not throwing as hard, Leavens effectively mixed his pitches, striking out nine Braves.

The Leavens brothers produced the only New Richmond run in the first game. Dan Leavens doubled to the leftfield gap and he scored when Josh punched a single to rightfield.

Exeland won the game on a two-run homer in the sixth inning. The homer was one of three hits allowed by Leavens in the game. The Millers finished with six hits off Herbst.

It looks like Leavens will get a steady starting pitching assignment for the rest of the season. Sean Conrad, one of the starting pitchers, is dealing with a shoulder injury that could prevent him from pitching for an extended period. Leavens, Roskam and Peterson will all see more mound time because of the injury.

Peterson pitched the second game on Sunday, allowing 12 hits and five walks while striking out nine. Exeland scored once in the first off Peterson, but the Millers took a 2-1 lead in the second inning. Evan Gaddis and Conrad singled to start the inning. Gaddis scored on Paquin's bases-loaded walk and Conrad came home on a wild pitch.

Exeland took a 3-2 lead in the fifth but the Millers tied the game in the sixth when Gaddis scored on a groundout. Both teams scored once in the seventh inning. Exeland scoring the winning run in the top of the ninth inning.